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Alexander Uzikov, fourth-year student of the "Applied Mathematics and Information Science" bachelor’s programme, HSE University
I studied at TU Dresden in Germany from October until the end of studies. Quarantine began in the most inconvenient time, in the middle of the midterm exams. Because of this, some exams were first postponed and later cancelled. Since Germans care very much about personal data safety, the university has outright banned Zoom for classes and exams. This was a bad decision – the university’s technical facilities were not built for such pressure and collapsed the first day. Now all lectures are recorded, and classes will only start when quarantine ends. Distant learning in my university is badly organised only due to the administration’s conservatism and unwillingness to use external software; not because distant learning per se is wrong. I do hope that the pandemic will force universities to be more flexible and to use various formats – online courses to Zoom classes to something even more innovative. Germans tend to follow requirements strictly. That’s why most restrictions were in fact recommendations and could be ignored if necessary. How quickly these recommendations were put in place is amazing. For example, additional protection of shop employees was recommended Saturday, March 22. The next day, shop personnel had masks, goggles, and gloves; partitions at cash desks were installed. Some shops (like Aldi) even gave disposable gloves to the buyers.
When the quarantine just began and the number of infected was in hundreds, the government explained that this is a pandemic that cannot be stopped and that the main task is to flatten the curve to let the medical system survive under pressure and help everybody who needs it. Education facilities and most of the shops were soon shut down, save for groceries and pharmacies. It was also prohibited to gather in groups of three and more (apart from family members.) The government gave large sums of money back to businesses and employees to ensure that quarantine measures are followed.
Now the number of infected starts to decrease and quarantine measures will be lifted in steps. Quarantine was a great time to see the city since walks were not prohibited.
There are several reasons I did not cancel my exchange programme. First, I had no place to self-isolate in Russia and I didn’t want to become a patient zero in the university or at home. Second, it was obvious that Moscow will go down this path soon, and HSE University will switch to distance learning as well, so there was no difference to be in Russia or Germany. Finally, I wanted to apply to European universities, and it is easier to do that here, in Europe.
John Dadzie, second-year student of the "System and Software Engineering" master’s programme, HSE University
I’m currently studying at Middle East Technical University in Ankara-Turkey. I’ve been here from the 27 of January 2020, it’s been 4 months since then. The semester will end in the last week of June.
There’ve been a number of measures to help contain the spread of the disease. We’ve had a number of curfews especially during the weekends and lockdowns with social distancing and isolation especially from people who are not feeling well.
We had a number of lessons transferred to the online mood. This information was sent to students through their official university and personal emails. In the beginning, the online study was a bit challenging and this could be somehow attributed to the fact that many students weren’t used to or ready for the switch.
There’s a restrain on moving around as some places are closed and some flight destinations cancelled for the time being. However, one can still move around in the proper protection outfit while observing WHO guidelines and rules provided the Government as university authority.
We have classes mainly using the "Zoom" online meetings which have been integrated with the university’s learning management system (LMS). In areas such as quizzes, we have them on the LMS, questions take the usual format; objectives and written. Also, we do submit written assignments to the professors’ email and to the course link on LMS. I haven’t had an exam yet but I believe it will take the same approach.
Finally, courses that require practical sessions are intended to be held during the summer, hopefully when this whole COVID-19 situation simmers down.
I would say I’m more used to the offline approach as there’s more interaction. However, the online approach does come with some perks. This includes the possibility of watching the video recordings of the lesson as many times as you like, this is quite helpful as we can get things we missed or didn’t understand during the lesson.
Irrespective of offline or online the professors are very supportive and perhaps even more supportive during these online courses as they go the extra mile to ensure that each student is getting the best from the lessons. Some of the means used are; WhatsApp class groups communications, emails, Skype calls, and also being able to directly chat with professors on WhatsApp. Even Though we are physically connected I would say more access links to professors have been made possible.
Generally, the atmosphere is as vibrant as it used to but still possible to enjoy the spring due to the beautiful weather and blossomed flowers. I go out a number of times but not as often and frequently as before due to the COVID-19 situation. It is possible to meet friends, and also if in groups it should be very small numbers and we all have to be wearing protective gear and maintain social distancing and other preventive measures. I picked up writing, drawing, and cooking (smiling).
Things were really going great here with studies and general student life coupled with being hopeful that things would revert to normal soon and even if there was a delay there is an impressive number of measures put in place to ensure students safety hence I didn’t panic and decided to stay and complete this program that my hard work as a student has made possible to be selected and accepted for .
I believe I should be able to return when the semester ends and borders are reopened.
Patrick Senkel, Dmitry Ilvovsky’s intern
I study social sciences at the Humboldt University of Berlin and arrived on March 1st this year.
Although it utterly changed my plans to experience Moscow I'm okay with isolation. Due to the following different media and announcements by the municipal government, the switch to isolation was no surprise. Hence I was able to prepare myself and think ahead.
My university stopped imminent outgoing mobility and further asked students abroad to consider returning home. Future mobility seems to be uncertain for at least a while, present mobility seems to become a very
unusual experience for all of us. Due to my internship at HSE University, I don't participate in any online courses and instead work remotely for several weeks now. My supervisor is reachable at any time and we communicate at least biweekly. Altogether this works well most of the time and I proceed with my projects.
I experience a calm atmosphere in the dorm as well as in the neighborhood. I do short walks to the next grocery two or three times a week. Apart from that, I use the backyard of the dorm to breathe some fresh air daily. Compared to my arrival the dorm is more empty but still accommodates some very nice mates to spend some time.
I proceed to deepen my general Python programming skills and learn new aspects regarding "Natural Language Processing". But this was the main reason to apply for an internship at the 'Faculty of Computer Science' and
although I'm really pleased to do it is not a new hobby. But due to isolation I probably (and unfortunately) lack most of the typical diversion large cities provide.
I follow several German and Russian media as well as announcements of Moscow municipal government and German Embassy. A broad review and intensive discussions with one mate convinced me to stay. Actually I don't feel a threat and no urgent reason to leave. Besides, it doesn't matter whether I spend my isolation in Berlin or in Moscow.